Amelia R. Zietlow ?20

Amelia R. Zietlow

Class Year


Current home

New York City, New York


Biology (Paleontology Track)

Current Position

Comparative Biology PhD Candidate at the Richard Gilder Graduate School, American Museum of Natural History

Amelia Zietlow ’20 is a PhD candidate at the Richard Gilder Graduate School. She works in the Vertebrate Paleontology Department of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Her main research focus is on the evolution and anatomy of mosasaurs — a group of extinct, predatory marine lizards from the Late Cretaceous Epoch.

“I enjoy getting to play with super cool fossils of real-life sea serpents and discover new things about them.”

Amelia R. Zietlow, ’20

What have you enjoyed most about your career?

“I enjoy getting to play with super cool fossils of real-life sea serpents and discover new things about them. Growing up, I never understood how scientists could focus on a single animal to study on, but I completely understand it now. I also like traveling to attend conferences and visit specimens in museums around the world.”

How did Carthage prepare you?

“For paleontology specifically, we had the rare opportunity to participate in all three major subfields as undergrads: prep, fieldwork, and research. I volunteered for a few hours each week in the prep lab at the Dinosaur Discovery Museum, spent two weeks digging in Montana (and have returned several times since graduating), and published my research project (which became an honors thesis) in PeerJ. Altogether, my experience at Carthage undoubtedly gave me an edge over other candidates when applying to grad schools.”

How has your liberal arts education benefitted you?

“I utilize liberal arts skills every day in my particular grad program, as pursuing my research interests (evolution and anatomy) requires being able to focus on both big picture problems and the nitty gritty details simultaneously.”

Why did you choose Carthage?

“I chose Carthage because of its paleontology program. My initial plan was to become a pilot, but since flight school is expensive, I decided to get a business degree for a ‘real job’ to pay for it. I wanted to learn about things I liked, however, so I looked for schools with both good business programs and good biology programs, as I’ve always loved animals. I’ve always liked dinosaurs as well. One day, while looking for colleges, I Googled ‘paleontology in Wisconsin’ just for fun, and Carthage came up. Carthage has business and biology programs, which most schools do, but the paleontology program really made it stand out to me.”

What opportunities were made possible because of your Carthage experience?

“I was able to travel a lot through J-Term study tours (Germany and Costa Rica) and the paleontology program (Montana and Brisbane, Australia). I’ve even been able to dig for dinosaurs in the summer with the Carthage Institute of Paleontology after graduating. I also certainly would not have gotten into my current grad school without the help and encouragement of my advisors and other professors. And through my current grad school and the connections I made while at Carthage, I’ve been able to continue to travel across North America and abroad for my job.”

What Carthage professors played a part in your success and how?

“I am forever indebted to my advisors, professors Thomas Carr and Temple Burling, who supported me and encouraged me to pursue my own interests. Prof. Carr in particular helped me hone my research writing skills, guided my undergraduate thesis into a peer-reviewed publication, and taught me the ‘politics’ of the field of paleontology while also putting me in touch with many of the key players in the field.

“I also want to thank professors Angela Dassow and Dan Choffnes, who gave me feedback on my grad school essays and helped me prepare with mock interviews. I am grateful that I was able to have such close relationships with my advisors and professors at Carthage, and I will always owe my successes to them.”

What role have the values in Carthage's mission, "Seeking Truth, Building Strength, Inspiring Service — Together" played in your life?

“The motto of the Carthage Institute of Paleontology is ‘Una Historia, Una Veritas’ — ‘One History, One Truth.’ As a paleobiologist, my job is to seek and uncover truths that have been buried for 75 million years — a task that I feel my Carthage professors have thoroughly prepared me for. During grad school, I’ve also committed to sharing my research with the public and inspiring others, especially other girls and underrepresented groups in STEM, to pursue their own passions. I’ve done so via social media and invited talks at museums across North America. Recently, I started a YouTube channel with four other paleontologists, in which we use video games to discuss current and historical paleontological research in accessible language.”

What's your favorite Carthage memory?

“Most of my favorite memories are of traveling for J-Term, particularly the paleontology trip to Montana and the trip I took with the Paleontology Club to present my thesis research at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Brisbane, Australia. We had some free time there and were able to visit Steve Irwin’s zoo. ‘Crocodile Hunter’ is one of the key things that I believe shaped my path in life, and so it was lovely to visit the Irwins’ home base and meet many of the crocodiles I’d loved to see on TV as a kid. Even though I initially went to Carthage to ‘get a job’ in business, my advisors helped set me back on the path I’ve always been meant to take by assuring me that it was really possible for me.”

Tips for current Carthage students?

“Talk to your professors! They really do care about your success and want to help you, but you have to reach out to them to facilitate it. Keep on top of deadlines and aim to get things done ahead of time to account for unforeseen circumstances. Finally, even if you feel like you’re doing okay in a given class, there’s no shame in going to tutoring, and every little bit helps!”

Are you a Carthage graduate who is excelling in your field?